U.N. Committee OK’s Draft on Lethal Autonomous Weapons; No Treaty Exists on Unmanned AI Control of Deadly Force

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The U.N. headquarters in New York

NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee on Wednesday approved a draft resolution on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, or LAWS, technology in which artificial intelligence automatically sets attack targets and carries out deadly strikes with no direct human control.

It is the first time that a resolution calling for consideration of LAWS issues has been adopted by the committee. It is expected to be adopted at the General Assembly’s plenary session in December.

 There is no treaty regulating LAWS, and the technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, with battlefields in Ukraine becoming “testing grounds” for AI weapons amid Russia’s aggression there. There is an urgent need to establish international rules.

 The resolution was proposed by Austria. In Wednesday’s vote by the committee, which deals with disarmament and international security, 164 countries — including Japan, the United States and the other Group of Seven nations — voted in favor of the resolution, while five countries — including India and Russia — voted against it. Eight countries — including China and Israel — abstained.

 The resolution also mentions the need to apply international humanitarian law, expresses concern over the risk of an arms race and touches on other issues. It calls for a report on each country’s views on LAWS regulation to be compiled and submitted to the U.N. General Assembly session beginning next September.

 Peter Asaro, an associate professor of media studies at U.S. university The New School told The Yomiuri Shimbun that Wednesday’s adoption could lead to the creation of a legally binding treaty. He commented that how to involve Russia and other countries that object to the resolution would become the next challenge.